Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Close to Home

Now that I've showed off my residence, I thought I'd show off some of the scenery from the neighborhood... I think I mentioned before that the fireweed were in full bloom as we drove into town that first day, and while they have since wilted in the frost (it is practically winter now) they remain in my mind as part of my first sight of this area.



Yes, the hills really were covered with pink like this the whole way in. ☺

And, of course, my new banner...the view on the way into town (in the early morning light):

Monday, September 28, 2009

Consistent vs Reliable

Ahh consistency, the mark of a great parent, right? They are never pushovers, they do not give in to whining or wheedling. They set their rules and they stand by them. Once a consequence has been put in place, it will be enforced without exception. After all, children need consistency, they depend on it. They will push at the boundaries and if you, as the parent, give even a little then they will push harder and harder and get out of control.
We've all read this before, I'm sure.
All the parenting experts say it, and if the experts agree, then we should agree too, shouldn't we?

Well, I have realized that I disagree. (Yep, there's me, questioning the status quo again!)

I don't want to be a perfectly consistent parent. I want to be a reliable parent.

What is the difference? Well, a consistent parent is rigid, and unchanging. Once a rule is set then it is there and ne'er shall it budge. If we have a rule that you must eat your veggies before having any dessert then thus shall it be forever more! (so let it be written, so let it be done!!) Well, yes, good foods before treats is a general policy in our house...but every once in a great while isn't it fun to break that sort of rule? One night we took an idea from the disney channel and decided to have a "totally chocolate dinner." You should have seen the look on Wolf's eyes when we told him. It was a day that he reminded us of for months.

As a reliable parent my kids learn that it is ok to request making changes--this summer Wolf questioned his bedtime asked if we could move it a little later. We discussed that we had established it because he was in school and had to get up early, but concluded that since it was now summer we were willing to try out a later bedtime and see how it went. (Incidentally, we had tried that later bedtime a couple of times before, and it had not worked out, but just because something didn't work before doesn't mean it's not worth trying again.)

With a reliable parent my kids know that it's ok to ask questions about the status quo (hey, does that sound familiar?!) They know that I can be relied upon to make sure that there are always boundaries, but that sometimes the details are subject to change, and that is good. After all, each person is different, each age is different, and one of the most consistent things about parenting is change!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A general rule for living and working with children

"If I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, whose good opinion and affection you valued."

--John Holt

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Babywearing in a pinch

Since it's International Babywearing Week, I figured it was a good time to post this. ☺


Ingredients:
1 kiddo who is big enough to sit up but not quite big enough (or awake enough) to walk the distance
1 big towel
1 mama who is 20 weeks pregnant (pregnancy is optional)

Directions:
Put kiddo on your back piggy-back style. (If he's used to being worn he will hang on like a monkey, facilitating the subsequent steps!)
Take one long edge of the towel and center it on the kiddo's upper back--either under or over his shoulders, as desired. Tie the upper corners snugly over mama's bust. If possible, have a helper snug them up with an overhand knot(you won't need a double knot, but especially if the towel is at all damp you will need that helper!)
Take the lower edge of the towel and snug it up under the kiddo's bootie, and tie it around mama's waist (above the belly if she's got another little kiddo in there!) Again, have a helper help you get it snug in front.
Hike securely in peace and comfort, enjoy kiddo falling asleep rather than whining, have fun!
Bear is around 30 lbs, and with my growing belly (the extra weight plus, you know, the bulge) I haven't really been wearing him since last winter.
However, there was one day this summer when we were camping that we decided to go to a little swimming hole. We were told it was "right next to the parking lot" but when we got there we discovered that it was actually about 1/2mile walk in to the falls and pool. That's not that far, but it is a pretty good distance for a 2 year old. So I grabbed a nice big towel and improvised. (The photo is on the way back out, he was on the verge of sleep, thus the groggy expression...)

Incidentally, since Bear has always been worn, he just curls his body right onto mine and hangs on like a little monkey. He's much easier to carry--even in a makeshift form--than a child who is not used to being carried. ☺

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday

September 22 is Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' birthday (yes, they share a birthday--Frodo turned 33 and entered adulthood on the same day that Bilbo turned 111 and had his massive birthday bash, as found in the first chapter of "The Fellowship of the Ring." Everybody knows that, right?)
Anyway, Hubby put the birthday on our calendar several weeks ago, but since he is heading out of town tonight we celebrated last night with a hobbity dinner of vegetables and mushrooms and (of course) two kinds of birthday pie. ☺ (yes, I'm still trying out all your pie recipes...we've got a couple to go still so it'll be another week or two before I'm ready to announce a contest winner.)
In any case, I didn't have anything particular to say today, except Happy Birthday to the Hobbits, and yeah, I'm a little bit of a geek. ☺

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pictures of the New Place

Alrighty, I know I keep promising I'll get these posted...I had a few from our landlords that showed the empty apartment, but I was waiting until we had some furniture and had unpacked a little better so that I could show what it actually looks like with us in it (also it's so hard to get a sense of scale if you see a picture of an empty room...it's a lot easier to tell how roomy this place is when you can see things in the space!)

Without further ado...

From the front door you can see straight down the hall Turning around...
The kitchen is remarkably tall--I haven't had to utilize a step stool as part of my regular cooking regimen in a looong time. ☺ But since what you see here is all the cupboard space there is, I try to use it all, including on top of the shelves.And our table/chairs (one is often at the desk during the days) and my sweet little makeshift shelving.

The living room (yes, they did make good on the couch issue...good thing!)
Yes, that is a van seat in our living room...we don't have a garage to put it in, and it's been functioning as extra seating as well. The one downside of this apartment is that there's not a lot of storage... There's a big box behind the van chair there that is holding some of our bulkier camping stuff that I haven't found a home for yet... (as well as three boxes that I still need to unpack).
See how I took another box and made it into a little shelf for all our DVDs? ☺ And the TV is sitting on another little box...it would be nice to get a better stand/shelf to put the TV on and that we could store our movies in, but for the moment this is functional.
Also we have a great view, which this picture doesn't show terribly well...

Here you go, this is a better look at the view out our living room window.
Are you jealous of my Home yet?!
(Those mountains are a National Park, and the larger snow field on the right there is a glacier. We can't see the bay because of the trees, but there is bright blue water between us and those mountains...)


Alrighty then, on down the hall...

Here is the playroom, because every kid should have a place where he can let it all hang out a bit (and doesn't have to keep it clean every day...the intent is that toys stay in here and it's allowed to be messy except once a week for me to vacuum...other rooms are relatively toy-free and thus stay pretty clean)
Another of those 'make it do' solutions is that the kids' toys are sorted into boxes rather than having some kind of chest or bin system...the OCD organizer in me wants matching labeled bins, but the kids don't seem to care much (and aren't fond of putting things IN the containers no matter what they are anyway) so hey, boxes work for now.
The playroom closet currently houses all my sewing stuff...

Right now when I want to sew I have to haul the machine and whatever else I need out to the desk and work there (the kitchen table wiggles too much from the power of the machine so I can't use it). I'd like to get set up with a proper sewing desk etc (although I'd love to have it still in the closet where I can shut the door in front of it) but for now it's stacked in boxes...yes *sigh* that is pretty much all fabric/yarn/notions. Well, no, one of the boxes has my serger, one is scrapbook stuff, and one is full of items I've already made that are "in stock" in my etsy shops.

OK then, moving on...

The boys bedroom
Cute matching beds with drawers underneath...so long as they keep the comforters on the beds I've given up asking them to make their beds (they both thrash around in their sleep so much that nothing can stay tucked in anyhow).
They need a bookshelf too...right now all the kids' books are either on their headboards or in that box between the beds there.
Of course I made use of the closet for storage too. They have short clothes, so I figured it was ok to put some things along the floor... The stand-alone dresser is for the baby...1 drawer for those cute cloth diapers, 1 drawer for all the slings/wraps/pouches, 1 drawer for blankets...so it's a good thing his clothes are small cuz there's only one drawer left for them!

And the master bedroom
Yes, those are boxes functioning as a nightstand. They work pretty well. On the other side are the crib parts--I'll be putting up the crib with one side off as a sidecar/co-sleeper bed there before the baby arrives.


Whew, there you have it. I think I got everything.
OK, so I didn't show you the bathrooms...we have two full bathrooms. They look like normal bathrooms. They are neither cute nor gross...thus my not bothering to post pictures of them. Now are you satisfied?!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Make It Do...

Use it Up
Wear it Out
Make it Do
or
Do Without

It's a good mantra, particularly for a family who has made a conscious decision to live modestly and frugally and put every cent we can toward getting out of debt. When we moved to Alaska we got rid of all our furniture because it costs so much to move it...in Pelican our apartment was furnished so we didn't have to worry about not owning much, but since moving into our new (not furnished) apartment we've had to buy a few things. Some things were needs and could not wait (beds and a kitchen table) and since time was of the essence some of it had to go on the credit card. We chose modest models of all of the above and went ahead and got them. There are other things however that fell into the category of 'want' (even if it was 'really really want') and so we have chosen to forgo them for the time being in the interest of avoiding debt and waiting until we have cash...and thus it is that I show off my new kitchen shelving:
A classic example of "make it do"
Take a bunch of same-sized moving boxes, cut off one long flap and one short flap and then fold the other flaps into the adjoining boxes as you stack them...Voila, additional kitchen storage for free.

I did use some plywood and packing honeycomb cardboard to build a little bookshelf, and it is not holding up nearly as well...
(aren't you proud of us for our book minimalism?
We got rid of at least 3/4 of our books when we moved...support your local library!)


...yeah, it sags a bit...so a proper wooden bookshelf is about the top of my 'wants' list (right there with a bedroom dresser...yes, aside from a few items on hangers, I am literally living out of a suitcase...). Hopefully we'll be able to find one on craigslist or freecycle soon. ☺



And yes, I have taken photos of the rest of the house. The virtual tour will be posted on Monday. ☺

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

32 Weeks--Nesting and the New Midwife

pregnancy week by week

Ahh, over 4lbs and about a foot and a half long (you got that, he's close to birth length, even though he's got at least a couple of pounds to grow) no wonder I can feel him pushing and wiggling all over in there. He likes to stretch out and push against my pelvis and my ribs at the same time...laying down in bed at night feels great because it lets me (and him) stretch out. I'm blessed with a long torso, so I guess I have more room in there than a lot of women do, but even I start getting squished at this point. ☺
Your not-so-little-one is just a bit closer to their birth weight and height at around 4 pounds and 17 inches. With each added layer of baby fat, your baby's skin starts to look more and more like it will when they finally get to see the light of day. The heavy news: you can expect your miracle-gro muffin to gain about a half a pound of weight per week from now until about two weeks before birth.

Your baby's still-developing immune system has gained substantial strength over the past few weeks getting them in full gear to face our disease-ridden world o’ wonders. Obviously, a large majority of your child’s immune strength will be derived from exposure to breast milk as well as the outside elements. Their cute little noggin’ (which could already be covered with luscious locks or just purty peach fuzz), is still soft because the skull bones have not yet fused together. As much as that sounds a little too vulnerable, their “skull softness” allows for a much smoother passage through the birth canal during labor—something both you and your little swimmer will appreciate when it’s finally time to “go!” Also, some babies will have that “soft spot” on their head for up to one year after birth.
I am getting Braxton-Hicks contractions fairly regularly now. I don't generally find them painful, although I definitely do notice them...it's just a big squeeze in my middle. BHs are sometimes referred to as "false labor" but that's something of a misnomer...they are real and they are doing something, it's just not full on labor. It's more like "practice labor," and thank heaven for it because every little bit that can get done now is a bit that I won't have to worry about on delivery day!
I've gained about 15lbs at this point, which I think is slightly 'behind' on the average curve, but it seems pretty normal for me. I had gained 10 or 11lbs at this stage last time. I seem to just wait till the second half of my pregnancy to put on any weight, but then I gain it steadily enough and Bear was a healthy size so I'm not the least bit worried about Eagle. I have a gut feeling that Eagle is (or will be) a little bigger than Bear was, but I'm really not worried. Bear wasn't that big (I was actually surprised at how little he was--just over 7lbs) so we've easily got a couple of pounds leeway.
32 weeks, as you may recall, was the time when I got my first stretch marks with Bear. Well, I haven't noticed any new ones this time around, and since I have plenty and to spare leftover from that pregnancy I am hoping that they will last me through this one too and I won't need any new stripes this time. I guess only time will tell!
I had my first prenatal appointment with my new midwife last week and I'm so happy with her. Even when I was seeing the midwives in Utah I felt like I was on a bit of an assembly line, or a to-do list...it was just such a busy clinic that I'd have to wait for my appointment, then they'd take me back and I'd wait some more in the room, then the midwife would come in and spend 5 minutes with me and be on her way. 45minutes in the office and only 5 of it with the midwife, you know? Sure, they were nice, but they were just in a hurry. My midwife here, A, practices on her own, so it's a small office and she doesn't take too many mothers at once. I hardly had to wait at all and she spent over an hour with me. One thing I really liked was that she felt my belly to determine the baby's position (my OB did that one time with Bear--toward the end, to make sure he'd turned head-down, but A does it at every visit). Since she knew precisely how the little Eagle was laying, she was able to put the doppler in precisely the right spot to hear his heart (rather than moving it around and spreading goo all over my belly as she hunted, which is what the other midwives always did). Another thing I loved about A was that she made Bear part of the appointment--she let him climb up on the table next to me and then let him put the doppler on my belly in the place she indicated--he was so pleased with himself when that thumpa-thumpa came over the speaker.
Aaaaand, yes, I'm nesting. As we've gotten things unpacked and settled in here in our new home, I've found myself feeling the need to get out baby things too. So I've gotten out (and washed) all the baby blankets. I've gotten out the small size of cloth diapers. I've got all my babywearing things unpacked again...it's terribly fun looking at the tiny jammies and remembering how they are way too big for the newborns...but how they get outgrown in a matter of weeks (or days) after birth. I haven't set up the crib yet--but I have to save something for the last month, right?!

Now that I have my midwife here, and I have seen where I'll be giving birth, I'm able to start visualizing D-day (delivery day). I'm getting really excited for this birth...I was always excited for the baby, but I'm starting to get into the headspace of preparing for the actual birth, and that's exciting. Two of my friends have had babies recently and I've been reading their birth stories (one had twins, naturally, at home, and both were breech!). I've been reading [natural] birth stories from books too, and it's so inspiring to read page after page of stories of women bringing their babies into the world. ☺

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How We Met--Treehuggers

Another installment in the "how we met" series...(if you don't know what that is, go here to see the first post...trust me this will make a lot more sense if you know the background! You can read the whole series by clicking here.)


Hubby was with a group of treehuggers who had handcuffed themselves to some old growth trees in protest of the loggers who wanted to cut them down.
I was working as a summer intern with the group who was sent out to try to mediate with said treehuggers...

At this point the person to whom he was telling the story--our new neighbors--became extremely interested and started asking details--which agency was I with, what kinds of trees, how big do they get anyway, how long does it take them to get that big...the story kinda fell apart because we couldn't answer all the questions!

The real irony is, if either one of us was going to be a handcuff-myself-to-a-tree sort of activist, it probably would have been me. ☺

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen


I recently finished a most fabulous book: Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I heartily recommend it, and I do so with the note that it will probably make you re-evaluate not only what you eat but also how you eat it. Pollen says so much and says it so well that, rather than try to summarize, I will simply quote liberally from the book:
"The trend toward simplification of our food continues up the chain. As we've seen, processing [foods] depletes them of many nutrients, a few of which are then added back...Fortifying processed foods with missing nutrients is surely better than leaving them out, but food science can add back only the small handful of nutrients that food science recognizes as important today. What is it overlooking? [S]cience doesn't know nearly enough to compensate for everything that processing does to whole foods. We know how to break down a kernel of corn or grain of wheat into its chemical parts, but we have no idea how to put it back together again. Destroying complexity is a lot easier than creating it." (115-6)
After describing the findings of several people who studied indigenous peoples from all over the world (and found that all the people were healthy on these natural diets, even though the diets themselves varied greatly) Pollen comments that “The human animal is adapted to, and apparently can thrive on, an extraordinary range of different diets, but the Western Diet, however you define it, does not seem to be one of them.” (100)
He discusses the history of nutrition in the western world--seeking for foods that would be cheap, give lots of energy, and be quick and easy to prepare and eat. I appreciated that Pollen doesn't criticize the motives or the people involved so much as explaining why the results have been (and are) problematic. He goes into the nutritive and metabolic differences between white and whole wheat flour, and spends most of a chapter on what we have recently learned--but long ignorantly overlooked--about the differences between Omega 3s and Omega 6s. He takes on the matter of organic vs conventionally grown crops, and concludes that "very simply, we have been breeding crops for yield, not nutritional quality, and when you breed for one thing, you invariably sacrifice another." (121) (If you have ever smelled one of those huge fancy hybrid tea roses you probably know that they smell like nothing. On the other hand the wilder roses with the little blossoms are euphoric!) Pollen continues "Halweil cites several studies demonstrating that when older crop varieties are grown side by side with modern cultivars, the older ones typically have lower yields but substantially higher nutrient levels. USDA researchers recently found that breeding to 'improve' wheat varieties over the past 130 years (a period during which yields of grain per acre tripled) had reduced levels of iron by 28 percent and zinc and selenium by roughly a third." (121)

Finally, Pollen concludes the book with a list of guidelines, or as he describes them "eating algorithms, mental devices for thinking through our food choices." They are summarized right on the cover of the book: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Within the book of course he expounds upon each point. I have not copied all of his guidelines here, but this list is representative, and makes a good jumping off point for improving your diet--and your health. ☺

"The more eaters who vote with their forks for a different kind of food, the more commonplace and accessible such food will become." (14)

EAT FOOD (FOOD DEFINED)
  • Don't eat anything that your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
  • Don't eat anything incapable of rotting.
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or D) that include high fructose corn syrup. (He adds that none of these things alone is evil per se, but that they are all indications of a highly processed food, and therefore an undesirable one.)
  • Avoid food products that make health claims. ("For a food product to make health claims on it's package it must first have a package, so right off the bat it's more likely to be a processed than a whole food." Futhermore going to the trouble to secure those official health claims from the FDA involves time and money, and typically only the big food companies have that.)
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever possible (try farmer's markets or, what a notion, growing your own garden!)
  • Shake the hand that feeds you (I love that one!)

MOSTLY PLANTS (WHAT TO EAT)
  • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves (because different parts of plants have different nutrients, and as the western diet has become more and more seed-based we have become less and less healthy).
  • You are what you eat eats too (in other words, "the diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality, and healthfulness, of the food itself.")
  • Eat like an omnivore (eat a variety of foods!)
  • Eat well-grown food from healthy soils (this more or less means organic, but certification is expensive and many smaller farms have the good foods in spite of not having the sticker).
  • Eat wild foods when you can.
  • Seek a more traditional diet, and regard nontraditional foods with skepticism. ("I'm inclined to think any traditional diet will do; if it wasn't a healthy regimen, the diet and the people who followed it wouldn't still be around.")
  • Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet (health comes from an overall pattern of good eating, not from ingesting large doses of one specific nutrient).
"A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species." (122)
NOT TOO MUCH (HOW TO EAT)
  • Pay more, eat less (Spend more money for the higher-quality foods, spend more time in preparing them, don't overeat)
  • Eat meals (not just snacks. Interact with your family/fellow eaters as you sit together.)
  • Do all your eating at a table (Don't eat in the car or in front of the television.)
  • Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does ☺
  • Try not to eat alone
  • Eat slowly (eat deliberately and mindfully. Also, it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that the stomach is full, so if you finish a meal in less than that time you're obviously not listening to your gut.)
  • Cook and, if you can, plant a garden ("To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be fast, cheap, and easy; that food is a product of industry not nature; that food is fuel, and not a form of communion...")
"I no longer think it's possible to separate our bodily health from the health of the environment from which we eat or the environment in which we eat or, for that matter, from the the health of our general outlook about food (and health). If my exploration of the food chain have taught me anything, it's that all the links in it are in fact linked: the health of the soil to the health of the plants and animals we eat to the health of the food culture in which we eat them to the health of the eater, in body as well as mind." (144)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trying Cloth Diapers (on a budget!)

After my recent post about the politics of diapers, I got the following comment:

So I'm actually kind of interested considering I'm going to have two kids in diapers in the next week. Any ideas on how to try out cloth diapers without investing a ton of money pre-commitment?

What a great question! I was ready to make the commitment before trying them out, so the investment wasn't really an issue for me. I knew that I wanted to use cloth, so I spent my time researching types of diapers, reading reviews about various patterns, and deciding which fabrics to buy. However, if you're just thinking about cloth diapers, and not sure yet if you're ready to jump in with both feet, here are a few suggestions:
  • Figure out how many diapers you need (for all diapered kids) for one full day and night. I think that's the minimum number of diapers you'll need to get to try it out. If you only get enough diapers for a few hours then you may not be able to find out how you feel about mid-night changes or super-poopies, and we all know that those are facts of diapering, so if you're really considering cloth then you should try them for a full 24 hours.
  • Remember that some parents choose a middle ground--they use cloth diapers at home or during the day, but still use disposables when going out or for nights. There isn't a right or wrong way to cloth diaper, it's just a matter of finding what works for you. This is one reason I recommend trying out cloth for 24 hours--maybe you'll find that you love cloth, maybe you'll hate it, and maybe you'll just realize that you're a middle-ground parent, and that's ok too!
  • Some diapering styles are cheaper than others...but not everyone likes all the styles. The cheapest is prefold diapers (held closed with a snappi or pins) with some form of cover over them. Next come fitted diapers (with their own elastic and velcro/snaps but no leak-barrier layer and still requiring a cover). Then there are pocket diapers, and finally all-in-ones as the most costly options. There are single-size diapers (which come in S, M, and L), and one-size-fits-most diapers (which adjust to fit different sizes, but of course cost more per diaper). Cotton flannel or birdseye is pretty budget-friendly, bamboo velour is quite expensive. Recycling old fabric of your own is the cheapest of all! Even the diaper covers come with choices--fleece, wool, or PUL--each with their own options and price ranges. I recommend doing a little research at DiaperPin or one of the other diapering forums linked below to learn about the pros and cons of the various types of diapers.
  • If you know someone who cloth diapers, especially if her children are different sizes from yours, she may be willing to let you borrow some of her diapers for a short period to try them out. Most cloth diapering mamas that I've known really love cloth, and are typically eager to help convert someone else to the world of cloth. ☺ Even if she doesn't have any spares, at the very least she'll let you look at her diapers and get an idea of what various styles are like without having to buy one of each of yourself.
  • There are a lot of online shops that offer discounts if you buy big diapering packages. They tend to run $1-400 (depending on the diaper style, materials, or brand), and typically include a full set of diapers in one size, or some of the larger ones have everything you need to last from birth through potty training. Yes, that's a big monetary investment all at once BUT consider this: If you decide you don't like them, cloth diapers (especially barely-used ones) have a resale value. Yep, you read that right, you can re-sell your used cloth diapers, so if you buy a discounted package set, then decide you don't want to stick with cloth, you can probably resell all those diapers for very close to what you paid for them. So it's a lot of money up front, but it's not really a risky investment because you can get it back if you change your mind.
  • Of course, that leads us to the next option--yes, you can buy used cloth diapers. I know several moms who have bought a variety of types of diapers so that they could try them all out. They keep the styles they like and re-sell the ones they don't care for. There are a variety of options from practically new diapers (sold for nearly new prices) down to "FFS" (free for shipping) which means that the diaper is old and worn but still works ok and you can have it for free if you'll just pay the cost of mailing. There are several places where one can do this: DiaperSwappers, and ClothDiaperNation are the most well known. (There are a few people who try to sell secondhand cloth diapers on ebay, but technically this is against ebay policy and they do police the listings, so I don't recommend trying to buy or sell diapers there.)
  • There is at least one online shop which has a "try them out" kit where you can rent a set of a couple dozen diapers to try out. You do have to make a deposit for the full value of the diapers, but after the rental period if you decide that cloth is not for you then you can return the diapers and get back your deposit. If you do like them, they are yours to keep. I believe you can even exchange the (gently used) rental set for new diapers if you want. There may be more than one place that does this--search around a bit and see what you can find!
  • If you know how to use a sewing machine (even just a little bit) then you can make diapers for a fraction of what it costs to buy them new. Depending on the type of diapers you want, you can save even more by making them with old flannel shirts for the outsides and old towels for the inside layers--your monetary investment can be limited to a snappi or some velcro and elastic, plus some covers. If you worry that your sewing skills are not good enough to make a diaper, remember these two things: 1--I know two different people who learned how to sew by making diapers and 2--diapers are to catch poop, not to win beauty contests; it's ok if they look a little funny. ☺
  • If you have questions, ask a cloth diapering mama!! Like I said, we tend to get excited about new cloth-diaper-converts. There is also some useful information about various aspects of cloth diapering (such as information about diaper sprayers or cloth-diapering on the go) at the EtsyClothDiapers blog.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Politics of Diapers

If you've never considered cloth diapering, here is a little background about disposables...it may encourage you to re-think your decision! (Especially since cloth diapers no longer require pins, separate plastic pants, or dunking & swishing in the toilet...they're easy, cute, trim, cost-effective, and oh yes, environmentally responsible. ☺ )

I just highlighted a few points (since I know you'll probably skim rather than actually read the whole thing!)


Published in Mothering Magazine issue 116, Jan-Feb 2003

1961 Proctor and Gamble (P&G) introduces Pampers.

1971 Pennsylvania Boy Scouts conducting a highway cleanup campaign report that the largest single source of litter is the disposable diaper. Disposable diapers contribute 171,000 dry weight tons of waste to be processed by US sewage systems. (M. A. Shapiro, Preliminary Study of the Environmental Impacts from Processing and Disposal of Diapers)

1975, February In comparing the effectiveness of several brands of disposable diapers, Consumer Reports notes that trees are cut down in their manufacture, enteric (intestinal) viruses and live polio viruses from vaccines have been found in feces in disposable diapers removed from "sanitary" landfills, flushing diapers can ruin septic tanks and plumbing lines and damage sewage-treatment plants, and only commercial incinerators can safely burn disposables.

1975, July Wildlife-management personnel complain of the increasing presence of throwaway diapers improperly disposed of in parks and preservation areas. In North Carolina, a marine biologist reports that raw sewage spilling from pipes clogged with disposable diapers is killing fish. (The Sentinel, Winston-Salem, July 31, 1975)

1975 "The presence of viruses in untreated human fecal matter in solid waste disposal sites originates largely from the increased, wide-spread use of disposable diapers, which often send feces to landfill sites rather than to the sewage plant. Small children and babies excrete large numbers of enteric viruses in their feces, and viruses from landfill sites might be leached out and contaminate underground water supplies." (Baylor College of Medicine)

1975 The EPA warns that rainwater washing through dumps may carry viruses-which can live in compacted solid waste for up to two weeks-into underground streams, and from there into public and private water supplies. Improved sanitation during this century has made rare the diseases associated with direct contact with raw sewage: hepatitis A, shigella, salmonellosis, amebiasis, and typhoid. However, the University of Oregon Survival Center notes that outbreaks of shigella, salmonellosis, and hepatitis A are now more common in hospitals and daycare centers. The World Health Organization has called for an end to the inclusion of urine and fecal matter in solid waste.

1978 The Office of Appropriate Technology of Lane County, Oregon, takes three random samplings from a sanitary landfill and finds that disposable diapers comprise 16 percent, 26 percent, and 32 percent of the garbage extracted in each sample.

1979 Pediatrician Dr. Fred C. Weiner, of Montreal, Canada, studies one-month-old babies brought to a well-baby clinic for a period of one year and finds that disposables cause more frequent and more severe diaper rash. He advises limiting their use. (Journal of Pediatrics 95, September 1979)

1979 Oregon Senator Mary M. Burrows co-authors the state's first proposed bill to ban the sale of disposables.

1981 Testimony on behalf of HB3047 and HB2838, the Disposable Diaper Ban Bill, before the Oregon House Energy and Environment Committee of the Legislative Assembly: "Valuable wood pulp goes into the manufacture of close to ten billion diapers annually. This represents in excess of 800,000,000 pounds of paper. All of this paper is used only once and thrown away. It cannot be recycled. Yet, the timber industry doesn't have enough allowable cut at the same time that the public is increasing its use of recreational timberland and is clamoring for more. We cannot afford to sink our valuable and diminishing natural resources into throwaway diapers. Industry sources claim that disposable diapers require less energy than rewashing reusable (cloth) diapers. These claims must be rejected out-of-hand. None of these energy use figures include the costs of sewage treatment or solid waste hauling and management, to say nothing of long-term costs of directing natural resources from other uses."

1986 "Over 40 percent of newborns in US hospitals are diapered in Ultra Pampers. In addition, the diaper has received a highly favorable response from pediatricians. In fact, within the first five months of introduction, over 25 percent of your colleagues reported that they had recommended Ultra Pampers to parents of diaper-age children." ("Dear Doctor," a brochure enclosed in Proctor and Gamble's Medigram, November 7, 1986)

1987 US disposable diaper revenues total $3.2 billion. 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp-about a quarter of a million trees-are consumed annually in the production of disposable diapers.

1987 The Empire State Consumer Association petitions the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the New York State Attorney General's office to prohibit the sale of synthetic super-absorbent disposable diapers and adult incontinence pads. The chemicals used in synthetic super-absorbent products contain sodium polyacrylate, cross-linked with polymers to create super-absorbent components. These chemicals can cause severe skin infections and, rarely, toxic shock syndrome.

1988 Proctor and Gamble pay $120,000 for a three-year study at the University of Michigan to determine the effects of sodium polyacrylate in disposable diapers once it enters a landfill. The researcher says that the study shows that disposables are environmentally safe. (UPI, July 28, 1988)

1989 EPA estimates that single-use diapers account for 2 percent of all solid waste in US landfills. A Seattle, Washington study finds that 1.8 percent of its municipal garbage is made up of diapers.

1989 In a study commissioned by the National Association of Diaper Services (NADS), Carl Lehrburger of Energy Answers Corporation, a resource recovery company in Albany, New York, estimates that parents pay ten cents in disposal costs for every dollar spent on throwaway diapers. With 18,000,000,000 soiled diapers being hauled to the landfill every year, Lehrburger figures that American mothers and fathers spend $300 million annually on disposable diapers that take 500 years to decompose. Throwaways comprise 2 percent of the nation's solid waste by weight, making them the third most common solid waste item after newspapers and beverage and food containers. Even if all 18,000,000,000 of the single-use diapers disposed of annually in the US were biodegradable, the public would still spend $300 million each year for their disposal. Each family that chooses cloth diapers for their child prevents one ton of waste from entering the solid waste stream each year. (Diapers in the Waste Stream, 1989)

1989 Dioxin is produced when chlorinated compounds, such as chlorinated plastics, are burned at high temperatures. Dioxin is formed when paper and wood pulp are bleached. The bleached pulp is then converted into a variety of paper products, including disposable diapers. Dioxin has been associated with cancer, liver disease, miscarriage, immune-system depression, birth defects, and genetic damage in a variety of laboratory animals. The fatty tissue of the average person living in the industrialized world harbors measurable levels of dioxin. When Proctor and Gamble faces the possibility of losing its share of the Swedish diaper market because of that country's curtailment of chlorinated pollution levels, the company begins making chlorine-free Pampers for export. ("Whitewash: The Dioxin Cover-Up," Greenpeace 14, no. 2, March/April 1989)

1989 "Diapers are a good target for waste reduction advocates because with the exception of newspapers and beverage containers, they are the single consumer product that contributes the most to solid waste stream." (Positive Steps towards Waste Reduction, June 1989)

1989 Diaper services, which almost disappeared in the late 1970s because of the introduction of the throwaway diaper, increase business by more than 70 percent as a result of hundreds of news stories on environmental concern and the growing demand for reusable cotton diapers. The National Association of Diaper Services (NADS), trade organization for the $150 million yearly diaper-service business, has about 400 members. Another $50 million is generated yearly by the manufacture and sale of cloth diapers.

1989, June Gerber, Childrenswear, and Dundee Mills, major US manufacturers of cotton diapers, lobby for quotas limiting cotton-diaper imports from China-producers of the world's best and most durable diapers, the ones that diaper services use. According to some critics, the quota on Chinese imports creates a cloth-diaper shortage and kills competition. Some services have to create waiting lists of prospective clients. NADS does not take a position on the Chinese quota, but does make an agreement with Gerber "to do nothing to denigrate Gerber's current sales level for one year." Gerber contributes $80,000 to NADS in 1989 and $60,000 in 1990. (San Francisco Examiner, June 7, 1989)

1989, June Proctor and Gamble announces two pilot programs designed to test the feasibility of recycling its millions of disposable diapers and to show that composting "is a viable disposal method for municipal solid waste." One pilot program is in King County, Washington, where the King County Nurses Association has been working to educate hospitals and parents about cloth-diaper alternatives, and where 20 of the county's 34 hospitals have switched to cloth in their newborn nurseries and pediatric units. The second program, a $250,000 composting demonstration project, is planned for St. Cloud, Minnesota, a city that already recycles two-thirds of its trash. According to a Proctor and Gamble spokesperson, "Our aim is not to get into the recycling business on a permanent basis. Rather, we want to demonstrate that the technology is feasible and encourage entrepreneurs to get involved in this business." (Proctor and Gamble press release, "Perspectives on Disposable Diapers," June 20, 1989)

1989, July Connecticut begins to phase out the use of disposable products, including those used in patient care. Oregon is in the process of extending a 50 percent recycling credit to diaper services. New Jersey legislates a tax on the manufacture of "disposable, 'one-way,' nonreusable or nonreturnable products." Connecticut and New York consider requiring manufacturers of single-use diapers to affix labels to all diaper products, stating the environmental hazards associated with their disposal. Nebraska bans the sale of all nonbiodegradable diapers effective 1993. (Press Release of the National Center for Policy Alternatives, July 19, 1989)

1989 Contra Costa County, California, sets a December 1990 deadline to begin recycling throwaways; otherwise, a ban may be in order or purchasers may be charged with disposal fees. (USA Weekend, September 15-17, 1989)

1989 Kimberly-Clark, the second largest manufacturer of single-use diapers in the US, unveils a new line: Huggies Pull-Ups, training pants aimed at toddlers who are being toilet-trained and bedwetters.

1990, April 20th anniversary of Earth Day.

1990 Legislation is introduced in 24 states and dozens of smaller jurisdictions to reduce the use of disposable diapers. Between eight and nine of every ten US families with diaper-age children use throwaway diapers most of the time. While in polls US families overwhelmingly support a ban on single-use diapers, three out of four mothers do not want to give up disposables.

1990 Proctor and Gamble commissions a study by Arthur D. Little, Inc., a consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The consultant finds that laundering a cloth diaper over the course of its lifetime consumes up to six times the water used to manufacture a single-use diaper. In addition, the study concludes that laundering cloth diapers produces nearly ten times the water pollution created in manufacturing throwaways. (Arthur D. Little, Inc., "Disposable Versus Reusable Diapers: Health, Environmental and Economic Comparisons.")

1990 Jeffrey Tyrens, associate director of the Center for Policy Alternatives in Washington, DC, criticizes the Arthur D. Little study for a math error that makes single-use diapers appear cheaper than they are. He also finds that the ADL study fails to account for the water used in flushing away fecal material from single-use diapers-a practice recommended by Proctor and Gamble and other manufacturers on their diaper-box labels. Other critics point out that the ADL authors did not use independent data but instead relied on information gathered by P&G and other companies interested in promoting single-use diapers.

1990 Proctor and Gamble uses the Arthur D. Little data in a letter sent out under the auspices of the American Paper Institute, of which it is a member. The "Dear Legislator" letter reiterates the conclusions of the ADL study but fails to disclose that the study was funded by P&G. This letter prompts a rebuttal, a "Dear Colleague" letter signed by six legislators who support bills to encourage greater use of reusable diapers. Branding the API letter "misleading," the legislators write, "The disposable diaper industry realizes it is in danger of losing market share for this very profitable single-use product. Faced with overwhelmingly negative public opinion polls, they have launched a pro-disposable campaign among state lawmakers and commissioned the ADL study expressly to discredit cloth diapers." ("Review of Arthur D. Little, Inc.'s, 'Disposable Versus Reusable Diapers,' " Update on Diapers, September 1990)

1990 Proctor and Gamble sends more than 14 million copies of a pamphlet to US households stating that their diapers can be effectively composted in municipal solid-waste plants. The pamphlet, "Diapers and the Environment," complete with discount coupons for Luvs and Pampers, cites a five-week study conducted by P&G in St. Cloud, Minnesota, in which diapers from 2,700 homes and 17 daycare centers were composted along with the rest of the city's garbage. The results, according to the brochure, were "very positive." As part of a broad campaign to promote the company as environmentally friendly, P&G sponsors ads in more than a dozen major magazines featuring photographs of seedlings grow ing in pots filled with dark, porous-looking earth. The ads claim that 80 percent of each plastic and paper diaper is compostable and can be converted into a "rich, high-quality soil enhancer that's good for planting baby flowers, trees and just about anything else that grows." By some estimates, the company spends $250 million in 18 months on advertising. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs charges that P&G promotes its diapers as easily compostable, but in fact few consumers have access to adequate composting facilities. A Rhode Island state official demands that P&G remove the following misleading statement, which appears on boxes of free samples of Luvs dropped on doorsteps that spring: "This product is compostable in municipal composting units. Support recycling and composting in your community." Rhode Island has no such facilities for composting diapers.

1991 P&G's $750,000 disposable diaper recycling project in King County (see 1989, June; second entry) is declared a technical success but an economic failure, yet continues to be touted in brochures for Luvs and Pampers. (Seattle Times, January 25, 1991)

1991, January Sponsored by NADS, Carl Lehrburger and colleagues undertake the most detailed study to date: a life-cycle, or cradle-to-grave, diaper analysis. They find that throwaway diapers, compared with reusables, produce seven times more solid waste when discarded and three times more waste in the manufacturing process. In addition, effluents from the plastic, pulp, and paper industries are far more hazardous than those from the cotton-growing and -manufacturing processes. Single-use diapers consume less water than reusables laundered at home, but more than those sent to a commercial diaper service. According to industry data from Franklin Associates and the American Petroleum Institute, 3.5 billion gallons of oil are used to produce the 18 million throwaway diapers that end up in landfills each year. Washing cloth diapers at home uses 50 to 70 gallons of water every three days-about the same as flushing the toilet five times a day. A diaper service puts its diapers through an average of 13 water changes, but uses less water and energy per diaper than one laundry load at home. (Carl Lehrburger, Jocelyn Mullen, and C. V. Jones, "Diapers: Environmental Impacts and Lifecycle Analysis," January 1991)

1991, July The American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics publish the recommendations of their joint Child Care Standards Project. After four years of debate and research, the groups conclude that "only modern disposable paper diapers with absorbent gelling material" meet the standards they suggest for daycare centers.

1991, July In the United Kingdom, the Campaign for Reusable Diapers, the Women's Environmental Network's first initiative, finds that all of the available research on the environmental impact of throwaway diapers had been funded directly by makers of throwaways. A London independent environmental agency, the Landbank Consultancy, is asked to review and evaluate the data. The Landbank Report concludes that, compared to cloth diapers, throwaway diapers use 20 times more raw materials, three times more energy, twice as much water, and generate 60 times more waste. Using the Landbank Report, the Women's International Network challenges Proctor and Gamble's environmental equivalency claims before the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA rules that P&G's claims are misleading. Under pressure from the press, P&G withdraws its claims.

1994 The Women's Environmental Network (USA) joins with other groups to demand a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation of the single-use diaper industry, charging the industry with deceptive advertising of environmental and health outcomes. Proctor and Gamble pays out-of-court settlements to the New York City Consumer Protection Board and to the Attorneys General of at least ten states for misleading advertising claims related to the recycling and composting of Pampers and Luvs. Environmental groups nationwide, including the New York Public Interest Group and Californians Against Waste, present Earth Day Awards to cloth diapers. Environmental Action, in Washington, DC, gives the Environmental Citizenship Award to the more than 300 hospitals nationwide that have switched to cloth diapers in the past few years. (Wet Set Gazette, April 1994)

1998 Fewer than one in ten US and Canadian households use cloth diapers. Thirty-five percent fewer cloth diapers were produced in the first six months of 1997 as compared with 1996. NADS has 150 members, a 37 percent drop in less than ten years. Disposable diapers have gone up as a percentage of solid waste in landfills. In Seattle, disposable diapers have increased from 2.5 percent of all residential waste in landfills from 1986 to 1989, to 3.3 percent from 1994 to 1995. (Residential Waste Stream Composition Study by the Cascadia Consulting Group)

1998 Seattle Baby Diaper Service receives a subsidy from Seattle Solid Waste for the cost of diaper service for low-income families because it's cheaper to pay a diaper service than to haul the waste away. Certain cities in Germany and Austria subsidize the cost of cloth diapers. Each child in disposables costs the city roughly $400 in municipal waste costs yearly. Coupons of $50 to $100 per family toward the purchase of cloth diapers have increased cloth-diaper usage in certain areas of Austria from almost zero to more than 40 percent.

1999 A study, "Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions," in the October issue of Archives of Environmental Health, finds that laboratory mice exposed to various brands of disposable diapers suffered eye, nose, and throat irritation, including bronchoconstriction similar to that of an asthma attack. Chemicals released from the diapers included toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and isopropylbenzene, among others. The lead author of the study, Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson, advises asthmatic mothers to avoid exposure to these chemicals. Asthma rates are on a sharp incline in the US and worldwide, particularly among poor and inner-city children. Six leading brands of cotton and disposable diapers are tested. Of these, three are found not to affect the breathing of mice: American Fiber and Finishing Co., Gladrags organic cotton diapers, and Tender Care disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are not found to cause respiratory problems among mice.

2000 German study links use of plastic diapers to male infertility. The mean scrotal temperature is significantly higher in all age groups during the periods of plastic diaper use. Plastic diapers seriously undermine the body's natural ability to keep the scrotum and testicles cool. The researchers call for further research on the impact of increased testicular temperature in infancy on later sperm production. ("Scrotal Temperature is Increased in Disposable Plastic Lined Nappies," Archives of Disease in Childhood 83, October 2000.)

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